Talmud this Shabbat: Mixed Motive Mitzvah–Taking a 75-Year Old To Get a Vaccine so that I Get One Too


How do we assess a mixed motive mitzvah? The clearest example: After the Governor announced that if somebody takes a 75-year old to get a vaccine, the younger person can also get a vaccine, there was a veritable explosion of interest in taking our seniors to get their vaccines. If a younger person is incented by the opportunity to get their own vaccine, does that self-interest affect the moral quality of the deed? This issue manifests itself in many other ways as well.

If I give a big gift because I want the recognition, a plaque bearing my name, does that make my gift less morally compelling?

If I attend a gala (back in the days when we did that) because I want to see the right person as I am angling for an opportunity, does that make my presence at the gala less morally compelling?

If I decide to send my child to Jewish day school this year, when I never did before, because I want an in-person experience for my child, and I am more interested in that than the Jewish education, does that make the day school decision less morally compelling?

Many times we do the right thing for the wrong reason, or out of mixed motives. The Talmud has profound wisdom here. It is thousands of years old, and it could not be more current.

The texts are attached here.